The 1995 duet “Who the Hell is Sonia Rykiel” with the legendary, late, Malcolm McLaren, is a nice soundtrack for this post.
Born in 1930 in Paris, Sonia was a window dresser as a teen and later married the owner of a dress boutique. When she could not find soft, comfortable sweaters to wear during her second pregnancy, she collaborated with one of her husband’s suppliers to create soft, form-fitting sweaters for herself. They were popular enough that she began selling them in her husband’s boutique. By 1967 her ‘Poor Boy’ sweater was world famous and she was named by the American press, ‘The Queen of Knits’.
High, tight armholes and narrow shoulders are classic Poor Boy sweater features. Horizontal stripes have been, and continue to be, a hallmark of Rykiel’s work.
Her 2010 collection for H&M was a fun revival of the looks which had made her famous, decades before.
But, besides the Poor Boy and the horizontal stripe, Rykiel is best known for her graphic work with knits. It was she who first put seams on the outside of garments, and she who first used words and pictures as part of the knits she designed, an early example of which was a sweater bearing the word ‘SENSUOUS’, released in 1971 to much hullabaloo.
An informative timeline of her life and career may be found here.
A wonderful interview with Rykiel may be found here.